Chapter 20 – Mr. Kong
The sun rose and set again. The stars shifted and the moon traversed the sky. As dusk slowly set once again after three whole days of bloodshed, a combined attack of the guardians blew the last stone golem into pebbles. The ground now covered with craters, torn segments of vine and shards of golden armor. The river had dried up, and Bi Fang decapitated laid motionless on the ground. Less than two hundred of them were still standing.
The tip of Li Huaibei’s sword had been chipped, and innumerable fissures ran down the blade’s body. The girl he had promised to marry lied in his arm with her armor fragmented and her hands shaking. Fu Shan’s gourd was broken, and he was busy applying a bandage to his bleeding calf. Leader Ma was tending another guardian who had almost half of his body missing.
The guardians who remained were mostly wounded and had to support each other to stay standing. Instead of smiling after the long-awaited victory, most of them had a grave expression and looked at the entrance of the small village; none of them had managed to even take a single step in that direction, and it was without the shadow of a doubt that inside of it they would find the greatest danger. Their expectations were answered by the appearance of seven figures in the mist, right at the entrance to the village. The seven villagers were of all ages and sex, and the man who had the pan was amongst them.
“Why?” One of the elders sighed while looking as if he pitied the guardians. Judging by the voice, he was the one who tried to convince the guardians to leave earlier.
“Pfft, Heaven’s Laws.” The child who stood amongst them showed a scornful look which seemed unfit for his age.
“Let’s just end this quickly.” One of the woman, dressed in antique-style clothing, said as she unfolded a scarf with an embroidered Kyrin.
“Let me do it. You’re better off staying out of this. Otherwise, you’ll become tainted as well.” The man with the pan stepped forward and said in a voice that revealed some frustration. The mist that shrouded his face slowly dissipated.
‘Mr. Kong?’ Li Yiming was bewildered when he saw the face of the man. ‘The man who created an army out of beans is Mr. Kong?’ This face was all too familiar to Li Yiming, especially after Bai Ze had told him that no one would be able to remember his face due to his Dao technique. Li Yiming constantly thought of Mr. Kong, of his thick eyebrows and his odd smile.
The man who led the seven villagers had a slim figure, and he was not too tall nor too short. A pair of thick eyebrows hung above his flat nose bridge, and his eyes glittered like two black pearls. Aside from the slightly unsettling smile, he looked exactly like Mr. Kong. However, there was also something different about him. The Mr. Kong Li Yiming knew was someone placid, relaxed and refined, if not in attire then certainly in attitude. However, this Mr. Kong, under his diabolical smile, seemed to conceal a volcano that was about to erupt.
“So you finally decided to show up?” The man dressed in blue jumped into the air, supported by lotus flowers. He was one of the few guardians who was strong enough to turn the tide of the battle around earlier, and his surviving colleagues all respected him.
“Why do you bother?” Mr. Kong had a golden toothpick between his teeth. He trotted forward at a leisurely pace, as if he was taking a stroll more than anything.
“I have nothing to say, since things are already as they are. Lotus Heart—Liu Yi, here to learn from you.” The lotus flowers faded from the man’s feet and merged into his body. He jumped further upward, and, with each step he took, new rainbow-colored lotus flowers blossomed beneath his feet, turning the previous ones into orbs of light that spun around his body. 1
“A lotus with every step? He’s Liu Yi! Lotus Heart Liu Yi!” Someone from the crowd of guardians yelled, and it seemed like the spectacle brought some morale back to them.
“Liu Yi? I knew this guy liked to show off, I didn’t think that he was a Sage.” Fu Shan collapsed onto the ground with a weak smile.
“Look at it, Little Yu.” Leader Ma turned his head around and glanced at Li Huaibei. He picked up his weapon and held it horizontally, in front of his chest. “I’ve heard about him and his power since a long time ago. I didn’t think that I’d be fighting my final battle alongside him.”
Leader Ma spoke quietly, but his words did not escape the ears of anyone present, since all were guardians with heightened senses.
“So you’re not confident either?” Liu Yi did not seem to be bothered in the slightest. He cast down a look of concern at Leader Ma.
“How confident are you?” Leader Ma asked a question instead. His giant blade was trembling on its own between his fingers, and it would have fallen out of his grip had he not held it so tightly.
“With you, thirty percent.” Liu Yi continued to gain more height. Orbs flew in continuously and joined the intensifying ribbon of light that circulated around his body.
“Thirty percent? And here I thought you had all the confidence in the world.” Leader Ma’s body suddenly bulked up. The veins that ran beneath his muscles became visible, and with each heartbeat they moved rhythmically as well.
“Have you ever seen me use a knife?” Liu Yi frowned. He nodded toward Mr. Kong, who waited in the distance. He did not know whether his opponent waited out of respect for the strength of an equal, or out of pity for a man who was about to die.
“I can use a weapon.” A woman dressed in black suddenly jumped out of the crowd. Her cape burst into pieces midair, revealing a layer of crimson scales with glowing glyphs inscribed on them. Her right arm suddenly grew until it was longer than her own body and larger than her thin waist.
“Blood-hand?” Fu Shan sat up from where he lied lazily; he had started to regain some hope.
“Arggh!” Leader Ma roared in a low voice. The veins on his body suddenly burst out into a bloody mist, and his flesh began to quickly wither down. It was not long before his entire body had disappeared, leaving only his large weapon floated quietly in the air. The blade absorbed all of the red vapor, and suddenly shot up a bone-chilling ray that pierced through the clouds.
“Tyrant-Blade Ma Dafang? Blood-hand? They’re all Sages! We have three of them!” The crowd was getting excited. They had previously lost all hope, only to discover that there were three Sage level guardians amidst their ranks.
Blood-hand reached out with her giant right arm, and the crimson sword flew into her hand. She spun around and created a wild tornado of blood that flew toward Mr. Kong with their combined might.
As for Liu Yi, he leaped into the air, supported by a rainbow-colored cloud beneath his feet that slowly transformed into a lotus platform. The platform, composed of forty-nine crystalline lotus flowers, slowly rotated as it came crashing down, bringing with it an imposing aura of holiness.
Mr. Kong kept his smile, but the bloodthirstiness in his eyes, which he had to keep down until this moment, finally burst out in all of its fury. He pinched his golden toothpick and pulled it out of his mouth. The object quickly grew until it became a shiny staff. Mr. Kong swung it slowly against the red tornado that assailed him.
A deafening metallic clunk was heard, and the shockwave from the collision between the golden staff and the crimson sword rippled in the air like the wave of a tsunami. The guardians had to each use their own talents to protect themselves.
Li Huaibei held his lover in his arms and stood in the air, motionless. His broken sword floating quietly in front of him. The shockwave split into two as it touched the edge of his blade. Fu Shan stayed seated on the ground, his body shielded by a nearly transparent gourd which cleared away the shockwave like dust under the wind. However, both of them seemed worried about the outcome of the combat.
“Lao Ma…” Fu Shan whispered. The bloody tornado had disappeared. Blood-hand’s body flew high in the air, limp, with her hand distorted into an unnatural angle, while the weapon she held had been shattered into a cloud of red orbs.
“They’re dead? Two sages and they couldn’t even deal one blow?” A gasp of shock was heard from the crowd.
“Lotus Stars in the Emerald Sea!” Liu Yi’s echoing roar came from the sky. The forty-nine lotus flowers bloomed further and expanded as they fell toward the ground. They gained more and more speed until they seemed like forty-nine meteorites that crashed down on Mr. Kong. Liu Yi’s figure disappeared; the Heavens controlled forty-nine strings of fate, but one’s own will could also move one of them. Liu Yi had put all he had into his attack.
Mr. Kong scratched his neck lazily with his left hand and spun his golden staff around with a scornful smile as he raised his head to look at the meteor shower. His figure suddenly vanished. An instant later, he appeared right in the middle of the shower and thrust his staff onto one of the meteorites. As the projectile shattered into pieces, Liu Yi’s figure was revealed. The golden staff pierced through him, bringing an end to his attack.
The lives of three sages traded for two blows from Mr. Kong.
“Are you going to run away?” Mr. Kong, floating in the air, cast down a look on the rest of the guardians as Liu Yi’s corpse fell from the sky.
What answered him was the simultaneous rising of nearly two hundred rays of light. To be a guardian was to pursue the path and to protect it. No other distraction could cloud their judgment, and, if their fate was to die in the domain, then they would give their everything and die fighting.
Mr. Kong smiled placidly, as always, and his figure split up into two, then four, then eight… Each clone sought one guardian, and whomever they encountered would be destroyed completely, without even a chance for fighting back. Some were reduced to nothingness, whereas others were decapitated, and others still were dismembered.
Li Huaibei held his lover in one arm and his sword in the other. He saw Ma Da Fang’s body turned into a blood mist and Fu Shan with a staff through his chest. He merged his own blade into his own body; he would become the sword strikes at his enemy. However, when he met one of the clones of Mr. Kong, the tip of his sword shattered. At the same time, the frame of his lover was also utterly obliterated—she was too weak to endure such a collision. Li Huaibei maintained his firm look and continued to travel upward, but he knew that it was all over.
“There are five disadvantages and three deficiencies to fully committing to something. You should leave one of them alive.” Li Huaibei was suddenly stopped, his limbs set in place by invisible strings. Someone appeared in front of him and stopped the golden staff that was about to smash his body. He was skinny, short, and held a knit-bag in his left hand.
Li Huaibei blacked out.
* * *
Lights slowly returned to Li Yiming’s eyes. The first thing he saw when he opened them was a hand on his forehead sliding down. He looked around, at the neon lights and at the busy night streets of Shangbei; he was in the parking lot where he was at earlier. He could move once again, but his mind had yet to recover from the shock of the three whole days of intense combat.
Suddenly, Li Huaibei trembled violently and spat out a mouthful of blood. Li Yiming rushed to help him, but was stopped by a gesture of the hand. “It’s okay, nothing more than Heaven’s punishment, it’s not that big of a deal.” Li Huaibei showed a smile that was as charming as ever, but Li Yiming could read the solitude that it concealed.
“Is it because of me?” Li Yiming felt a little guilty.
“I’ve shown you things that you shouldn’t have seen, so it’s in the order of things to receive a punishment for it, in fact, it’s quite light, I would say.” Li Huaibei leaned down against a wall, his legs trembling. Li Yiming knew that it was not as light as Li Huaibei was purporting it to be, since he knew well how terrifying Heaven’s punishment could be.
“Why are you helping me?”
“Helping? You’re overthinking it. I’m just paying back a favor.” Li Huaibei smiled. He pulled out a cigarette from his pocket and tried to light it up, but missed twice due to his hands’ shaking violently.
“Just which one is Mr. Kong?” Li Yiming took the lighter and helped him out.
“I don’t know,” Li Huai answered and took a deep puff, “You’ll have to walk your own path, and it might be a path to glory, or to hell. But no one will be able to help you in it, not even Mr. Kong.” Li Huaibei dropped his cigarette onto the ground, Li Yiming wanted to help, but was stopped once again.
“I wanted to show you this. You’re now level four, and I was level five in that domain. How much you can learn from it depends on you. Just remember that you have your own path to walk.” Li Huaibei stood up, still a little shaken. Li Yiming wanted to support him, but he remembered what he “saw” earlier and stopped. He now knew what it meant to be a guardian, and what it mean to be proud of it.
“Let’s meet again someday! Live.” Li Huaibei straightened his back and limped into the distance, he was elegant and composed, yet also lonely and sorrowful. Li Yiming watched him silently from the darkness, with the winds of the night blowing on his back.
Note: I think a very important piece of information here is that at this point, to any Chinese viewer, it is obvious that Mr. Kong refers to the character of Sun Wukong(Monkey King) in the Journey to the West. Aside from the name similarity, more importantly, the golden staff that can shrink/extend is a signature weapon.
1. The lotus flower is a holy symbol in Buddhism.